Cuts of beef are seen at a supermarket in Montreal on June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Cuts of beef are seen at a supermarket in Montreal on June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

World body says Canadian beef officially poses ‘negligible risk’ for mad cow disease

Beef producers are finally able to turn the page after an international watchdog gave the industry an all-clear

Canadian beef producers are finally able to turn the page on the mad cow era, the federal agriculture minister said Thursday after an international animal-health watchdog gave the industry a long-awaited all-clear.

The Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health voted to approve Canada’s bid for the “negligible risk” designation — the most favourable category, which requires proof of extensive control and surveillance measures, as well as at least 11 years since the birth of the last infected animal.

“This has been extremely difficult for family farms, and for the industry — an industry that is built by families,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in an interview

”It’s kind of a page they can turn and they can look to a brighter future.”

Beef producers and the federal government have been working to restore the industry’s lustre ever since the first domestic case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE — better known as mad cow disease — was detected in Canada in 2003.

That discovery prompted a global shutdown of Canadian beef exports — a body blow to an industry that exports fully half of what it produces. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association estimated the losses at upwards of $5 billion over the following three years.

The impact has been resonating ever since, due to the increased cost of additional processing measures and the persistent chill on export markets that has persisted for nearly 20 years.

An estimated 26,000 producers left the industry entirely between 2006 and 2011, and more than 8,000 square kilometres of pasture lands were converted to other uses during that period, the association said.

Thursday’s decision “is a historic closing of the BSE era for Canada, which brought unprecedented hardship to our industry,” president Bob Lowe said in a statement.

Lowe thanked the government, veterinarians, and Canadian farmers and ranchers, as well as domestic beef consumers, “who supported Canada’s beef industry during the hardest times of BSE when Canadian beef couldn’t be exported.”

The decision will give Canada additional new leverage in its efforts to find new and expanded export markets for the country’s cattle and beef products, Bibeau said.

Canada has been deemed a “controlled-risk” country for BSE since 2007. The U.S., by comparison, secured negligible-risk status in 2013.

Bibeau said she’s hopeful that the decision will help bring new levels of efficiency and integration to the industry in both countries, now that processors in the U.S. will no longer need to manage American and Canadian cattle separately.

She warned, however, that those efficiencies won’t reappear overnight.

“We hope that now that we have reasonable-risk status, it will ease our collaboration and to export together to South Korea, for example,” she said.

“But it’s not something that because we have a negligible-risk status today, that starting today allows us to open up this discussion.”

Bibeau also said she remains hopeful that the U.S. won’t resurrect country-of-origin labelling rules for beef, which were repealed in 2016. Currently, imported beef can be sold as an American product, even if it was raised elsewhere but processed in the U.S.

Opponents of the measure, including Canada and Mexico, have successfully argued at the World Trade Organization that the measures only increase costs, diminish efficiency and run counter to the principles of North American trade.

Bibeau said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has publicly expressed support for the idea of new labelling rules for beef products, has assured her that the U.S. will not proceed with any measure that is not “trade-compliant.”

“On both sides, we are doing the best to support our industries,” Bibeau said.

“At the same time, we are so integrated and such close partners that we may challenge each other once in a while. But overall, doing business together is so important in the (agriculture) sector that we’ll have a strong but fair conversation.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Beef Industry

Just Posted

The City of White Rock turns 63 today. (file photo)
City of White Rock 2020 annual report available for review

Report to be discussed at June 28 council meeting

Dooris Raad was last seen in South Surrey’s Ocean Park neighbourhood on June 7. (Surrey RCMP photo)
Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 13

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

(James Smith photo)
North Delta crime beat, week of May 31

A selection of property crimes submitted weekly by the Delta Police Department

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read